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I must admit I would lost without the microscopes. I have one set up above my lathe and one on my bench. My eyesight is poor so I use my bench microscope for checking to see that the pallet folk pinion is seated correctly and also for jewel and pinion inspections.My lathe Microscope I use it for making staffs or removing part of the staff before removing or any small delicate items. 

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Hello Everyone, I am going to share the details of my adventure with a trinocular stereo microscope and a digital camera attached to it. I bought a second hand AmScope SM-1T (1st purchase) and I

Hi Lee, That looks like a nice piece of kit, albeit somewhat over specified. I have been using a Wild Heergrugg M5 now for about 4 years courtesy of an amazing car boot sale find and I wouldn't be

Cant get enough of my scope. its transformed my life!

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I use my microscope to take spring bars off, because why not?  I can see exactly what I'm doing and there's good light.

I have the two arm stand, which has more degrees of freedom in positioning the microscope head than in some of the other stands.  I normally have it angled forward slightly.  This way a screwdriver doesn't obscure the view of a screw.  Having to look straight down only would be very limiting.

 

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2 hours ago, xyzzy said:

I have the two arm stand, which has more degrees of freedom

Do you have a link to this stand please.  I was looking at the amscope double arm stand but it didn't look like it had any more adjustments than the 1 arm stand.

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Trying to get serious about this... An inexpensive eBay special would be nice, but here in the US, pickins are slim and of unknown quality. New is kinda the option. AmScope seems to be the sweet spot of quality and cost. I read good things about them here. My buddy uses one in his home lab/shop, and I think he said they have a few at work. Seems to be a solid bet.

Digging through their website, it's pretty clear they have a part number building system with a billion combinations of a handful of actual options. Unfortunately, they've made the site about as inefficient and confusing as possible... I did a blanket search for stereo microscopes, and scanned part numbers up to about $1K. I made a spreadsheet listing off each "series" based on the head (there are 8 of them). I noted the entry point for each series, then headed over to the accessory section to see what could be built out as needed piecemeal if necessary. Two series floated to the top. While searching for details on one, I was able to find an old WordPress site from AmScope's parent company describing the lineup. The information appears dated and incomplete, but I was able to confirm some things and learn some others. 

I'll save you the full spreadsheet, and it boils down to two series that look like good fits. SM- and ZM-. They both have 7 Barlow lens options, a ring adapter, and 6/16 eyepiece options respectively. The SM- series is less expensive, seems to have been around longer, and has a much more comprehensive representation on their site in terms of packaged permutations of head and accessories. I'm really having a hard time figuring out what the differences really are between the two heads though.

Could someone with a bit more microscope knowledge take a look at the head-only listings and tell me what the differences are between the two series?

SM-

https://www.amscope.com/7x-45x-trinocular-zoom-stereo-microscope-simul-focal-head.html

ZM-

https://www.amscope.com/6-7x-45x-trinocular-stereo-zoom-microscope-head-with-focusable-eyepieces-1.html

https://www.amscope.com/6-7x-45x-ultimate-trinocular-stereo-zoom-microscope-head.html

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ZM is just a different head than the SM.  I think it's supposed to be better, but it really doesn't show up in the specs anywhere.  I think maybe the field of view is slightly larger.  There is no optical quality spec that would capture an improvement there.  It's rather more expensive and it's also bigger, so I opted for the SM head.

Note that there are several different SM heads!  Normal ones with two ports for eyepieces and also trinocular ones with a port on the top for a camera.  Those trionocular described as "simul-focal" can use the camera port and both eye ports at the same time.  The non-simul-focal have a lever you pull that moves a mirror to select between the left eyepiece and the camera port.  If you want to take lots of pictures or make a video while you work, get simul-focal.

There are two different SM heads that are simul-focal.  It's not clear, but if you look carefully at the pictures you can see it.  One model has eyetubes that are focusable while the other doesn't.  With a focus ring on the tube it's possible to use non-focusable eyepieces, which are quite a bit cheaper than eyepieces that have focus adjustment.  So if you want to get different eyepieces (there is 5x, 10x (normal), 20x, 25x) it'll save money to get the focusable eyetube model.

21 hours ago, spectre6000 said:

hey have a part number building system with a billion combinations of a handful of actual options.

Indeed, it's quite an annoying system.  You will probably discover in your spreadsheet that certain combos are rather better deals than others.  For me, it made sense to buy a ring light from amazon because the combo with the ring light, and the other stuff I wanted, was much more expensive.  But drop the barlow lens or add an extra set of eyepieces, and then the combo with the light too was a good deal again.

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On 5/14/2021 at 5:33 PM, HectorLooi said:

https://grs.com/product/acrobat-classic-microscope-stand/

This is on my wish list. It costs more than my microscope. ?

I've used a stand like that at work and I didn't like it.  It wasn't stable enough.  I was working on small circuits so more magnification and the vibration is more noticeable.  Maybe at the lower magnification of working on a movement it would be ok.  Or maybe the setup at work just wasn't good.

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3 hours ago, xyzzy said:

ZM is just a different head than the SM.  I think it's supposed to be better, but it really doesn't show up in the specs anywhere.  I think maybe the field of view is slightly larger.  There is no optical quality spec that would capture an improvement there.  It's rather more expensive and it's also bigger, so I opted for the SM head.

Note that there are several different SM heads!  Normal ones with two ports for eyepieces and also trinocular ones with a port on the top for a camera.  Those trionocular described as "simul-focal" can use the camera port and both eye ports at the same time.  The non-simul-focal have a lever you pull that moves a mirror to select between the left eyepiece and the camera port.  If you want to take lots of pictures or make a video while you work, get simul-focal.

There are two different SM heads that are simul-focal.  It's not clear, but if you look carefully at the pictures you can see it.  One model has eyetubes that are focusable while the other doesn't.  With a focus ring on the tube it's possible to use non-focusable eyepieces, which are quite a bit cheaper than eyepieces that have focus adjustment.  So if you want to get different eyepieces (there is 5x, 10x (normal), 20x, 25x) it'll save money to get the focusable eyetube model.

Indeed, it's quite an annoying system.  You will probably discover in your spreadsheet that certain combos are rather better deals than others.  For me, it made sense to buy a ring light from amazon because the combo with the ring light, and the other stuff I wanted, was much more expensive.  But drop the barlow lens or add an extra set of eyepieces, and then the combo with the light too was a good deal again.

I see that the ZM series is positioned above the SM series, but I don't see what about it is better. I think one is "super widefield" and the other is "extreme widefield", but neither of those terms mean anything outside of the marketing department as far as I can tell. The other material difference is 6.7X vs. 7X to 45X with the ZM series having the 0.3X broader range (for what that's worth). Another difference I see is that the SM series pupilary distance adjustment is obvious, while I don't see any obvious adjustment for this on the ZM series. The ZM series has more eyepiece options, and they're nearly all the "extreme" widefield flavor vs. the SM series "super" widefield flavor.

What does a focusable vs. non-focusable eyetube look like?

Stand question: You mentioned above that you are able to angle your stand in order to get tools in there while working. What stand is that? Is there a type of stand that does this, or something to look for in the photos like the focusable eyepieces?

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16 hours ago, spectre6000 said:

Stand question: You mentioned above that you are able to angle your stand in order to get tools in there while working. What stand is that? Is there a type of stand that does this, or something to look for in the photos like the focusable eyepieces?

@xyzzyI just watched an AmScope video demonstrating the assembly of a single arm boom stand. It looks like there's nothing preventing the head from being positioned at an angle, as you described above. I can imagine that the head might be too heavy for it to be happy like that though. The only thing holding it at an angle against the gravity of the head would be the set screw(s). Is the double arm boom stand more firmly affixed in that regard?

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Posted (edited)

Here's a picture of my scope setup.  The scope is correctly focused on the small part on the movement pad.  There is plenty of room to get in with a screwdriver and see the screw and screwdriver without your hand blocking the view.  Without the angle, there would be space (with the 0.5x barlow as is shown) for the screwdriver, but all you would see is a blurry out of focus closeup of your hand.  With a 0.7x barlow, the scope is closer, and angling it and rotating the ring light out of the way gives just a bit more space in the that lens-stand gap.

The part after the block where the dual boom ends pivots about a horizontal axis which is inline with the boom.  One the single arm, you need to rotate the entire boom arm about this axis, which means you need to tighten the boom's knob that prevents rotation and sliding.  I can slide the boom in/out on the bearings and rotate the boom about the stand without loosing anything since the head maintains it's orientation without needing to tighten those controls. 

Then after that control, there is another pivot where the horizontal block meets the short vertical tube.  This pivots about an axis orthogonal to the first pivot described above.  It is the primary means to angle the scope head forward as is done here.  Through one needs both of these two pivots in tandem to both angle the scope forward and make both eyepieces level vertically at the same time, unless the boom is directly in line with the scope, and it's not, since off to the side of the work area is better.  The single-arm stand does not have any pivot on this axis.

The large block with the two big black knobs rotates about a mostly vertical axis.  It also can move up and down to extend the focus range without needing to adjust the boom height.  The large knob facing the camera is the focus.  The scope head itself then rotates in the holder (to point it at you), held by the tiny silver knob.  The small black knob on the head is the zoom.  Both focus and zoom are on both sides.

PXL_20210517_000417826.PORTRAIT-01.COVER.thumb.jpg.de2835dd4c1d2d8499c22009592fffb8.jpg

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On 5/16/2021 at 6:55 PM, spectre6000 said:

What does a focusable vs. non-focusable eyetube look like?

Take a look at amscope's "SM-4NTP".  The eyepiece focus is at the top, part of the eyepiece itself.  Then look at the "SM-4TP".  The focus ring is in the middle, part of the eyetube.  The eyepiece slides into the tube just after the focus ring.

It doesn't really matter unless you want different sets.  And I see amscope has focusable sets for about $75, vs about $30 for a non-focus set from ebay/alix, so it's not that much.  They used to cost over $100.

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7 hours ago, xyzzy said:

Here's a picture of my scope setup.  The scope is correctly focused on the small part on the movement pad.  There is plenty of room to get in with a screwdriver and see the screw and screwdriver without your hand blocking the view.  Without the angle, there would be space (with the 0.5x barlow as is shown) for the screwdriver, but all you would see is a blurry out of focus closeup of your hand.  With a 0.7x barlow, the scope is closer, and angling it and rotating the ring light out of the way gives just a bit more space in the that lens-stand gap.

The part after the block where the dual boom ends pivots about a horizontal axis which is inline with the boom.  One the single arm, you need to rotate the entire boom arm about this axis, which means you need to tighten the boom's knob that prevents rotation and sliding.  I can slide the boom in/out on the bearings and rotate the boom about the stand without loosing anything since the head maintains it's orientation without needing to tighten those controls. 

Then after that control, there is another pivot where the horizontal block meets the short vertical tube.  This pivots about an axis orthogonal to the first pivot described above.  It is the primary means to angle the scope head forward as is done here.  Through one needs both of these two pivots in tandem to both angle the scope forward and make both eyepieces level vertically at the same time, unless the boom is directly in line with the scope, and it's not, since off to the side of the work area is better.  The single-arm stand does not have any pivot on this axis.

The large block with the two big black knobs rotates about a mostly vertical axis.  It also can move up and down to extend the focus range without needing to adjust the boom height.  The large knob facing the camera is the focus.  The scope head itself then rotates in the holder (to point it at you), held by the tiny silver knob.  The small black knob on the head is the zoom.  Both focus and zoom are on both sides.

PXL_20210517_000417826.PORTRAIT-01.COVER.thumb.jpg.de2835dd4c1d2d8499c22009592fffb8.jpg

Ah! Now I see! Is the depth of field sufficient? That's not much of an angle, but it wouldn't take much. Good point about the fore and aft movement without affecting the angle. I wonder, if the same utility could be achieved by swinging the head around rather than sliding it in and out? ... The double boom is $240 vs. $214... Actually, on the scale we're talking here, that's not worth quibbling over. $15, and while that utility may or may not come in handy, the cast lever knobs vs. plastic is probably worth that alone; plus the weight and extra rigidity from that second boom arm... That's worth the delta.

Pulled the two referenced up side by side re: eyepieces. I see what you're talking about now. Cheaper eyepieces is for sure a worthwhile box to check. If I had to guess which was which without being told, I'd have probably guessed the other way around from the photos. Zoomed in, I see the printed scale on the adjustable ones.

You've got an SM head. Would you upgrade to the ZM for the "extreme" widefield?

You don't have a trinocular port at all. The ZM can be had with a switched trinocular port, while the SM has that AND a simufocal option. I don't have much interest in making videos; I'm pretty sure no one wants to see me fumbling around making stupid mistakes, and there's always the risk someone might think I know what I'm doing and take away the wrong lesson. BUT I have a 16 month old daughter who is going to need some serious sciencing. Without going into too much detail, I'd like to be able to throw the image up on a screen for her to see (not of watches necessarily, but all manner of other things). What are your thoughts on switchable trinocular vs. simufocal?

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13 hours ago, spectre6000 said:

Ah! Now I see! Is the depth of field sufficient? That's not much of an angle, but it wouldn't take much.

Indeed the focus plane is no longer horizontal and runs at an angle.   But I don't find it a problem and get acceptable focus over the full field.

13 hours ago, spectre6000 said:

You've got an SM head. Would you upgrade to the ZM for the "extreme" widefield?

The field of view seems pretty good.  I don't recall using a scope at work that seemed markedly better, but maybe none of them were extreme?  I think the ZM is taller and I wouldn't want to the scope body to take more vertical space.

13 hours ago, spectre6000 said:

What are your thoughts on switchable trinocular vs. simufocal?

I wish I had gotten a simul-focal.  I don't think I realized that was an option when I got mine.  The scopes at work with cameras were all switched, and it's a PITA, and so I didn't think I'd want to bother with a camera port.

Using the scope with one eye blocked is surprisingly annoying.  And you have to re-focus.  I've not used one that wasn't switched, but it sounds great.  I've found I'm taking a lot more pictures than I thought I would.  Watch parts are more photogenic than circuit boards and I don't need to remember how to reassemble a board afterward.

I've got an adapter that lets me replace one eyepiece with my cellphone.  But it's a pain to switch it in and out.  Pictures are ok.  I think they could be better, but the adapter is not tight enough in the eyetube to keep the camera's sensor parallel to the intermediate image plane.

PXL_20210115_015601897.jpg

PXL_20210322_030551421.jpg

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14 hours ago, xyzzy said:

I wish I had gotten a simul-focal.

That's only available on the SM- head, and combined with not knowing you're missing anything with the "extreme" widefield makes me think maybe that's the way to go. Which is nice, because those are much cheaper. Less nice is that now I have to parse the >1K permutations they offer to figure out how to most cost effectively construct the combo I want. First world problems I guess...

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OK! I've spreadsheeted (a word spell check seems perfectly content with), researched, and clicked like gangbusters for a while now, and here's what I've figured out:

At least insofar as AmScope is concerned, the most functional setup appears to be the following:

Simulfocal SM-series head with eyepiece adjustment on the head rather than in the eyepiece (10X is the default), an LED ring light that is easily dimmable and bright as possible, a double boom stand for mass and freedom of adjustment to include an angle off vertical, 0.5X Barlow lens to increase working distance while maintaining reasonable magnification (3.5X), a Canon mount adapter (future proof photo/video capability), and for my personal purposes down the road a 2X Barlow and extreme widefield 20X eyepieces.

I dug around extensively to figure out the most cost effective way to achieve this combination. You'd think their extensive combos with (nearly) every conceivable would involve some cost savings, but it seems you'd be wrong. The only way I managed to find any savings was by grouping the head and stand... The head alone is an unlisted part number, but I was able to find it somewhere, and they wanted more for the head alone than the head and stand. Everything else was cheaper a la carte.

SM-4TP; SM- is the head, 4 is the double boom stand, TP is the trinocular/simufocal part of the head, and leaving out the N (most common) puts the focus adjustment on the head rather than the eyepieces while dropping the price slightly. This is currently $550.99

From there, the parts are all a la carte, and total $200.97 excluding the non-watchmaking specific parts and a camera with a Canon mount (which I already have). The minimum combination for my most immediate purposes (excluding the camera mount) is $636.97. This is a palatable sum.

I had a thought where I looked up the single boom stand variant, and it threw a bit of a wrench into the calculus... The difference between the stands on their own is $26. Worth it. The difference between the kits where the only difference is the stand is $104! I'm trying to figure out if there's some way to break that distances a little, but nothing is coming to mind. I thought about buying the single boom kit and a double boom stand, then selling the single boom NIB for close to what it costs new, but at 30 pounds or so, shipping and time pretty much kill that.

Additionally, I haven't shopped around much save on AmScope's own site, but what I have seen has been identically priced. There may be some ground to gain looking at AliX or something (though for the base kit, shipping was more than the cost of the tool itself).

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I think I found the best deal was the kit with SM, dual boom, and 0.7x barlow.  It was $410.83.  There was a 15% off memorial day sale a year ago, when I realized going back to the office wasn't going to happen any time soon.  Haven't been back yet.

I got this ring light and this 0.5X barlow for Amazon for much less than the AmScope price.  They seem to work just fine.  I think the light and power cable being smaller is nice.  I'll use the 0.7x for oiling or cleaning jewels, because I have it, but the 0.5x is definitely the more useful.

I've also got a 2x barlow.  The working distance is very short.  I don't find it very useful.  I'd use no barlow and 20x eyepieces first if one really wanted more magnification.  I think the 90x magnification this allows is stretching the limits of the resolution and light gathering of the SM head.

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Posted (edited)

Your Barlow and ring light links are the same. That gives me confidence that I can find compatible accessories for less if I look around though. 

I found that the part number code for 0.5X Barlow is X (i.e. SM-4TPX), 2X is Y, and 0.5X and 2X both is Z. I can't figure out the code or even find any kits with a 0.7X Barlow. Do you have a part number?

My plan with the 2X Barlow and 20X eyepieces is extracurricular. 100% about sciencing with my daughter when she's a little older. I figure at 180X, I'll have to be backlit rather than incidental. I'll likely also be getting a compound microscope if that interest takes off. 

Memorial day is coming soon... Hmm...

A reality check moment hit me the other day: I was watching some YouTube videos about these microscopes, and I realized I had no idea just how big and heavy they are... I've never seen this flavor of microscope in person, and I guess also not really in pictures with anyone or anything adjacent for scale. I thought I was dealing with about a 1:2 scale version of what these are in size, and 1:4 in mass. I work on a roll-top desk, and the plan was to keep the scope under a cover on the top of the desk, and set it up on the desktop as needed (I also do work-work on the same desk, so it couldn't be very permanent there). These dudes are massive both is size and... mass. 60# is not something I'm going to be putting up and down over and over again, and I'm fairly certain that would take up the entirety of the desktop while also blocking the roll top and a good half of the drawers. Does everyone have these in dedicated/permanent locations? Are they really not that difficult to move around? Do handles or some feature make them easy to hoist?

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Can't edit my post, here's the link for the 0.5x, https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07HJF7GFB/

True to form, they are having a 15% off memorial day sale now.  Of course amscope is one of the places where everything is always "on sale", but I watched pricing before I bought mine and it really was cheaper now.

I checked my order email, I bought a SM-4B and a SM07, so it wasn't a kit with the lens, but it made sense to buy the lens there.  I don't have my spreadsheet anymore with everything I worked out.

I also looked at buying a used stand on ebay or selling a part from a better priced kit.  Shipping costs kill any potential savings.

Also looked at the virtually identical offerings on alix, but the savings was tiny.  My researched was if your scope arrives broken from amscope, they'll exchange for free.  If it arrives broken from china on alix, you're effectively SOL because of return shipping costs.

I haven't tried backlighting, but I think you're right that at 180x you'll need to go that way.

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Boo! I was kinda hoping to sell some watches first, and my desk is completely occupied by electronics stuff for work... The Memorial Day sale is an $83 shot clock... You're right about AmScope being one of those perpetual "sale" businesses. If they have a Memorial Day sale, would they also have... Xmas sales, and back to school or whatever sales? Fourth of July? 

Awesome on the $22 Barlow. That's bumps it to $100 in savings, and that's before I dig in on the light. Might be able to get the entirety of the minimum viable setup for around $500 new.

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22 hours ago, spectre6000 said:

Does everyone have these in dedicated/permanent locations? Are they really not that difficult to move around? Do handles or some feature make them easy to hoist?

For me, mine is permanent.  It's heavy and hard to move.  After having it on my desk for a while, and playing about with the position I decided that I'd use it more often than not and therefore would become part of my essential tool kit.

I still have plans to bolt it to the desk, the base takes up a lot of space so when I remove that it'll be so much cleaner.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I recently purchased this one:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005B1TR16

AmScope SE306R-PZ

I'm flabbergasted at how much clarity and amazing magnification it offers.

I've yet to determine whether its nature as a microscope that doesn't use an arm will inhibit my ability to work on movements under magnification.  So far I've only attempted to oil jewels under it, and that has taken some getting used to.

Wish I'd seen this thread before purchasing this unit.  I'm happy with it, but I may discover after some study of this thread that I could have done better.

Anyone else have any comments on this model?

This appears to be the unit that Mitchell at Wristwatch Revival uses : 

 

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On 6/5/2021 at 2:25 AM, LeeReynolds said:

Anyone else have any comments on this model?

I decided not to go with this format as everytime you need to use it you must move what your're working on onto the platform.  With the boom arm, you can leave the job in situ and bring the magnification over it.  Less chance of damage or losing parts etc.  Also, the working distance for that type is quite small, where as the one I have has 9 inch of space between the focus point and head giving you plenty of room to put a screwdriver in-between.

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